No. 6 Oregon rested, ready for Arizona

Field Level Media

November 13, 2019 at 8:47 am.

No. 6 Oregon is rested and ready to make a run at the College Football Playoffs.

Coming off a bye week, the Ducks finish the regular season against three unranked teams, starting Saturday night against Arizona at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) has a three-game lead in the Pac-12 North and can clinch a berth in the league title game Saturday before closing at Arizona State and vs. Oregon State to end the regular season.

“They’re going to play like crazy because they want to get into the playoffs,” Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin told reporters of Oregon’s mentality. “I mean, let’s be honest. … They’re going to try to make some statements.”

The Ducks, who have won eight in a row after opening with a last-second loss against Auburn, are coming off a 56-24 win at USC on Nov. 2, roaring back from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit.

“During the bye week, you can get better, but you can get worse,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “I think you prevent yourself from any type of decline if you really incorporate competitive drills. The amount of good-on-good stuff we did … I think all of that stuff keeps you sharp and keeps you on edge.”

Arizona (4-5, 2-4) also is coming off a bye but without a scintilla of Oregon’s momentum.

The Wildcats have lost four consecutive games, allowing an average of 47.3 points during the skid. Sumlin fired defensive coordinator Marcel Yates the week of the Nov. 2 home game against Oregon State and promoted defensive analyst Chuck Cecil — an Arizona alum, College Football Hall of Famer, former NFL safety and ex-NFL defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans.

The result: Oregon State won 56-38.

Perhaps the off week allowed Cecil to make tweaks to scheme and/or personnel to a defense that is 124th nationally in yards allowed (481.2 yards per game) and 126th in points allowed (37.3).

“He’s got energy. He’s got passion,” Sumlin said of Cecil. “He’s a legend here, and because of that he has tremendous amount of pride in what he’s doing. We can definitely feel that.”

Arizona will be facing one of the top quarterbacks in the country in senior Justin Herbert. The potential high first-round draft pick has completed 200 of 288 passes for 2,329 yards, with 24 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Oregon has averaged 43.3 points in the past four games and is getting a boost from Penn State transfer receiver Juwan Johnson. He missed the first four games, barely played in the next three but caught seven passes for 106 yards and three touchdowns against USC.

More good news for Oregon: The bye week helped running backs CJ Verdell (team-high 765 rushing yards) and Cyrus Habibi-Likio, as well as offensive guard Dallas Warmack, get healthy. The running backs were limited against USC, and Warmack missed the game.

Cristobal said Monday all three were “full-go” in Sunday’s practice.

Oregon’s defense is one of the best in the Pac-12, leading the conference in sacks (2.89 per game) and topping the country with 17 interceptions. The Ducks are likely to see a two-headed quarterback approach between Arizona’s athletic senior starter Khalil Tate and true freshman Grant Gunnell.

“I told them last week, whoever performs the best is going to be out there first,” Sumlin said.

If needed for motivation, Cristobal can point to last season’s meeting, when the Wildcats romped 44-15 in Tucson. Arizona running back J.J. Taylor rushed for 212 yards on 30 carries.